Godwin Tsa Abuja
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) and former governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu of Lagos State, have condemned recent attacks on judicial officers by aggrieved politicians.
They spoke separately, yesterday, at the valedictory session of the Supreme Court to mark the retirement of Justice Aminu Sanisu after attaining the age of 70.
In a veiled reference to the protest that trailed the judgment of the Supreme Court that sacked Emeka Ihedioha as governor of Imo State, BOSAN warned that calling for the sack of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko, on account of the judgment was a dangerous excursion into the territory of the independence of the judiciary.
Chief Joseph Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN), who spoke on behalf of the body, decried the activities of politicians who bring the integrity of the judiciary into disrepute.
Okpoko who stood in for the Chairman of the Body, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) said: “The political class in our country do not appear to be ready to appreciate the difficult task of judging and determining issues of fact and law applicable to any case. They rush out to criticise the judgments of our courts. In this way, victorious parties in a particular case jubilate and go for thanksgiving, singing praises of the judiciary and declare openly that the judiciary is truly the last hope of the common man. When that some victorious party loses in another case, he cries out to the high heavens, accusing the judiciary of corruption and other high crimes against his interest.
“In recent times, the unfounded accusation against some judicial officers has moved to a call for resignation of a particular judicial officer because the judgment delivered in his court went against their expectation. The call for the resignation of a judge because of his judgment is a dangerous excursion into the territory of judicial independence. Blackmail and intimidation are not compatible bedmates for the effective dispensation of justice. When the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Vice President A.L.Gore and stopped him from pursuing his petition further in the Supreme Court, all he said was, ‘I do not agree with the judgment, but I have to accept the judgment of the Supreme Court.’ Why can’t the political class in Nigeria adopt the same attitude and respect our judicial institution? Lawyers must stand up and fight for the judiciary as an institution. Time has come for us and our clients to be held accountable for those unwanted attacks on the judiciary,” he said.
Similarly, national leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC) who was cornered by journalists after the event warned against tarnishing the image of the judiciary by politicians who lose their cases in court.
“The judiciary is an important pillar for the sustenance of our democracy. We have chosen democracy and the judiciary is part of that very important arm of government. We should give it our support.
“This is an indivisible commitment to the rule of law. Yes, some people succeed in courts, while others fail. Reasonableness and honesty, integrity and character of the judiciary has always been reflective in their judgments. That is what we stand for as a democratic nation. We should not tarnish the image of the judiciary when their decision go against us. Judgment is ours and perfection is an act of God Almighty. So, if you notice an error, and what you perceived was an error and did not favour you, try again, not everyone is a winner,” Tinubu said.
BOSAN, however, disagreed with the chief justice that the existing vacancies at the bench of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal should be filled solely by serving judges.
Okpoko (SAN) said for a long time, the country had not appointed private legal practitioners as justices of the apex or appellant courts, saying the arguments being put forward that appointing private legal practitioners would block the chances of lawyers who have served as magistrates and in the lower courts was misplaced because the post of a judge is an appointive position and not by promotion.
Both Justice Tanko and Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) poured encomium on the retired jurist for his role in the development of the law.